Nick Tomboulides: Hello, and welcome to No Uncertain Terms, the official podcast of the term limits movement, for the week of October 11th, 2021. I’m Nick Tomboulides. Happy Columbus Day. This week, we’ve got a big story about a member of the US Senate who has suggested that a 34-year term limit might be a good idea. You know, we’ve heard some really bad and crazy ideas out of Washington over the years, but this one might take the cake. Then we talk about two members of Congress who were recently featured on our billboards because they refuse to keep their term limits pledges. Well, that’s all over now, and we’re gonna tell you how it turned out. Stay tuned. This is No Uncertain Terms.
Nick Tomboulides: I wanna update you all on Billboardgate. If you recall… If you listen to a previous episode of this podcast, our organization, US Term Limits, had put up billboards in the districts of two US Congressmen, two members of the House, Gary Palmer from Alabama and Drew Ferguson from Georgia, with a simple message. The billboard said, “Gary Palmer broke his term limits pledge. Drew Ferguson broke his term limits pledge.” We don’t assassinate characters here. We don’t pretend to know if someone is a good or bad person in politics, ’cause that’s just too hard to do, but we never mind sharing the facts with you and with the public. And in this case, both Gary Palmer and Drew Ferguson had signed a pledge saying that they would co-sponsor and vote for a constitutional amendment calling for a three-term limit on the house and a two-term limit on the Senate. That resolution, that bill, has been filed, since January of 2021, by Ralph Norman in the US House; it’s HJR12. But until very recently, Drew Ferguson and Gary Palmer were not on the bill.
Nick Tomboulides: And we did what we had to do. We put up billboards telling the truth, that they had made a promise and that they were in the process of breaking that promise. But thankfully, this story has a happy ending, because in light of our billboards, and in light of some gentle pressure from their constituents, I am happy to report that both Gary Palmer and Drew Ferguson are on HJR12; they have co-sponsored. Welcome back, guys. It’s lovely to have you in the family again. Thank you for supporting term limits, and we look forward to working with you.
Philip Blumel: Former Florida Congressman Patrick Rooney is a bit of an anomaly. The businessman and former ambassador to the Vatican was elected to the US Congress and then retired in 2016 after only four years there. Not too surprisingly, Rooney was the House Sponsor of the US Term Limits Amendment during his time in Congress, and he’ll still pushing the idea whenever given the chance. Here is Rooney with Leland Vittert of the cable news network NewsNation last week.
Leland Vittert: Self retired after just four years, joins us now. Alright, do we need age limits, term limits, or both, sir?
Patrick Rooney: Well, we definitely need term limits. I mean, Senator Grassley is a great American and a great patriot, but he’s been there a long time. There are 340,000,000 Americans. I’m sure that there’s a lotta people that could serve our country well. Not to take anything away from him, but term limits are what I think the founders envisioned, okay? They envisioned the servant leader comes off of his farm or his business, serve for a while, and go back to it, not a career as a professional politician.
Leland Vittert: Is the reason… And you’re a student of history from Georgetown University, among other places; written on history as well. Is the reason the founders didn’t put in term limits is ’cause they couldn’t imagine the idea of a professional political class, or they didn’t think it was gonna happen? What’s the reasoning?
Patrick Rooney: I don’t think they would have ever imagined that anyone would want to leave their entire life behind to go serve in the public realm forever, and… It just wasn’t considered part of their ethos. I mean, they had to beg Jefferson to come back off his farm. Adams did several different jobs, but didn’t do the same jobs. And I don’t think anybody would have imagined that they would find entrenched politicians or the so-called political class, since we fought a revolution… They fought a revolution, quite frankly, to get rid of a political class in England.
Leland Vittert: You’re a businessman, in addition to former congressman and former ambassador. If 86% of your customers want something, why is it that congressional leadership seems so opposed to giving it to them?
Patrick Rooney: Well, in a normal economic environment, that’s what you would do. If your customers want something, you’re gonna figure out how to give it to ’em and add value. Otherwise, you’re gonna go out of business. But in politics, it’s totally different. This elected business is a real racket. Between the media appearances that you create a persona for yourself, between the mail that the federal government pays for you to send out, between these ridiculous messaging bills that makes people think you’re really doing something, you can create… You can market your voters with their own money. It’s a real racket.
Leland Vittert: You know, it’s interesting; you think about it, it’s not just Republicans that you’ve talked about, or Chairman Grassley, but on the Democratic side, the combined age of the top three Democrats in the House, Pelosi, Hoyer, and Clyburn, 244 years old, which is as old as Congress… [chuckle] As Congress itself. Why do you think that is?
Patrick Rooney: Most of young people… Well, because they wanna stay there. Look at all the people that have renounced their term limits pledge after they’ve been there six or eight years. Tons of them.
Leland Vittert: Congress saying one thing and doing another; you just never think that would happen in Washington.
Patrick Rooney: Well, you think some guy that grew up in rural, eastern Oklahoma or southern Missouri, once he lives in DC for eight or 10 years, wants to go back there and pick strawberries?
Leland Vittert: Yeah, that’s a good point. It’s a very good point. Mr. Ambassador, it’s always good to see you, sir. My best to your wife.
Patrick Rooney: Thank you, Leland, look forward to seeing you.
Nick Tomboulides: What was that great quote from Batman? “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” In the case of politics, you either get term limited, or you stay in office long enough to become the villain. Because what we see, again and again and again, when you are elected for a very long time, you do grow stale. Barack Obama said that, and he was right. But you also become acclimated to your environment. And when we’re talking about Congress, we’re not talking about a healthy environment, we’re talking about a swamp. The longer you stay in the swamp, the more you start to think and act like all the other swamp creatures, all the other swamp dwellers. Let me give you an example of what I mean, ’cause I like to keep my finger on the pulse of what the average American is thinking about politics. What happens in Washington, that’s not all that relevant to me, what politicians think. I wanna know what Americans think. That’s why I’m a term limit supporter. That’s why I do this, because this is an issue that can bring our country together, for the first time in a very long time. Probably for the first time since 9/12/’01. This country hasn’t really been united; we’ve been divided.
Nick Tomboulides: So I care about what Americans think. And you don’t need a scientific poll to know what Americans think; we have those, sure. But you can just talk to people. You can just ask people. You can just do a social experiment. Suppose you were to walk into a random diner somewhere in this country, a random part of this country. Let’s say, Dothan, Alabama, or… I don’t know, Danbury, Connecticut. And you stood up, and you asked, “How many people here support term limits for Congress?” Eight in 10, or maybe even nine in 10, depending on where you are, on what day and what time, hands are gonna shoot up. Eight in 10 people, nine in 10 people support term limits for Congress. Then suppose, after that, you went table by table, and you just asked people… This is just a cross-section of average people just like you and me. “What is the right number of terms that a Congressman should be allowed to serve?”
Nick Tomboulides: Now, I’ve actually done this in different situations. You gonna get people who say one term, two terms; that tends to be the most popular. Three terms or four terms. Four two-year terms, three two-year terms. So that would be six or eight years, if we’re talking about the House of Representatives; leave the Senate out for now. Do you think any ordinary person in that diner would say it should be 16 years or 18 years? What about a 34-year term limit? First of all, would anyone say that? And second of all, would that have any positive effect on anything? A 34-year term limit, absolutely not! Absolutely not. People think about term limits like dental appointments: The shorter, the better.
Nick Tomboulides: So when we’re talking mainstream America, the heartland of our country, rural or urban, conservative or liberal, people like term limits, and they like their term limits short, because they wanna make the politicians go away as soon as possible, to let new people come in who actually know what they’re doing. So, if the American people love shorter term limits; we’ve established that; why did Oklahoma US Senator James Lankford just introduce a bill for 16-year term limits in the house and 18-year term limits in the Senate? So that’s eight house terms and three senate terms. Instead of just getting on the beautiful Ted Cruz bill, Senate Joint Resolution 3, Lankford introduced his own term limits bill that would let a politician spend 34 years in DC. 34 years. First of all, is that a term limit? No, it’s not. It’s trash. It’s garbage. Second of all, how did he come up with it?
Nick Tomboulides: We’ve already established that it could not have come from his constituents, it could not have come from the people, because nobody in that diner’s clamoring for a 34-year term limit. Nobody on the streets is clamoring for a 34-year term limit. Oklahoma’s governor has an eight-year limit. Their legislature has a 12-year total limit. So, where in God’s name did 34 years come from in the mind of Senator Lankford? Where did that come from? I mean, 34 years is a sensible term limit only to a person who has spent way too much time in Washington and not enough time around his constituents. So, the only explanation for this is that Lankford is letting lobbyists and his fellow politicians dictate his thinking on this issue, because a 34-year term limit is about as appealing as an enema in the eyes of the public. I don’t know where it came from, specifically. I can just tell you it came from the halls of Washington DC, because not a single damn person in Oklahoma told him to do that.
Scott Tillman: Hello, this is Scott Tillman, the National Field Director with US Term Limits. We’re over a year out for the next Congressional election, but candidates have already begun signing up to run for office. Next November, we’re going to elect people to fill 435 US House seats and over 30 US Senate seats. There’s gonna be several thousand people running, and we’ve already had over 194 new congressional candidates sign the pledge for term limits this cycle. We’re also working state by state to pass resolutions for a term limits amendment convention. There are over 7000 state legislative seats in the 50 states, and over 6000 of these will be up for election in November of 2022. We need your help to get candidates to sign this pledge: “I pledge that as a member of the State legislature, I will co-sponsor, vote for, and defend the resolution applying for an Article V Convention for the sole purpose of enacting term limits on Congress.” There will be over 4000 unelected candidates running for these seats, and so far, we have 130 of them pledge this cycle. We need your help to get to the rest. Follow us on Facebook to see the new signers and to get other Term Limits news. And contact me, Scott Tillman, at firstname.lastname@example.org, that’s S-T-I-L-L-M-A-N @termlimits.com, to help with pledges in your state. Act today to help us term limit Congress.
Nick Tomboulides: Now, there is a little bit of history here to consider. James Lankford is not just holding any old Senate seat; his predecessor was Dr. Tom Coburn, who was one of the most principled people to ever participate in Congress. Coburn, when he was elected, he promised to limit his own terms, and he kept his word. He promised to support the US Term Limits Amendment, and he kept his word. He retired when he said he would, and he also supported calling a convention of states. He was a great man, and he left very big shoes to fill, but this is not how you build on Dr. Coburn’s legacy. This is not progression, this is regression. This is moving in reverse, because Oklahoma went from having a senator who supported real term limits to having one who supports weak, fake, flimsy, phony 34-year term limits. And James Lankford needs to be called out for that. If you live in Oklahoma, you need to contact your senator and tell him to sign the US Term Limits pledge.
Nick Tomboulides: The other Oklahoma senator is like 9000 years old. He’s been there forever, Jim Inhofe. We don’t even bother with him; there’s no chance we’re gonna get him. But Lankford has been in Congress 10 years, and I don’t think he’s ever supported any term limits bill. So the question is, why start now? Why file this monstrosity, this terrible piece of legislation, for the first time in your 10-year career, if you’ve never supported term limits before? And I think I know the answer to this. It’s because Senator Lankford has some competition now. He’s up for re-election to the US senate next year, and he has two Republican challengers. He’s got state senator Nathan Dahm, and he’s got Jackson Lahmeyer. And what do those two men have in common? They have both signed the US Term Limits pledge, so they have both committed themselves to real term limits, the type of term limits that the people of Oklahoma really want to see. And Lankford must have woken up and said, “This is gonna be a liability for me if I don’t do something.” Trouble is, he did the wrong thing. He only made the situation worse by filing this terrible bill.
Nick Tomboulides: So, we will be monitoring the situation and seeing what happens. It’s very interesting here, ’cause you’ve got a US Senate incumbent who’s been in Congress for more than 10 years; he was formerly in the house; going up against two outsiders. He has not signed the US Term Limits pledge; both of them have. The US Term Limits Amendment SJR3 is the most popular term limits bill in Congress. So we’ll see what happens, but I do not think that Senator Lankford really thought this through. And he’s got a quote out there like, “Uh, well, we need more time to learn this system and learn this job, and it’s so hard.” Would that work in any other profession? Would that work in any other profession? Like, could you imagine you get on a plane, and your pilot says, “Umm, you know, I’ve been here 15 years, but I still don’t know what this red button does.” Or like a paramedic who says, “Oh man, where’s the hospital again? I can’t remember. I’ve only been here for eight years.” How come everyone else in society… How come 99.9% of us need to learn our jobs right away and do a good job, or else we get fired, but it’s okay for members of Congress to say, “Yeah, we don’t really learn how to do this until year 15, year 16, or… God forbid, year 30, 40, or 50.” Why is that okay? Why is there a double standard? And why do we let them get away with saying that?
Philip Blumel: Thanks for joining us for another episode of No Uncertain Terms. The term limits convention bills are moving through the state legislatures. This could be a breakthrough year for the term limits movement. To check on the status of the term limits convention resolution in your state, go to termlimits.com/takeaction. There, you will see if it has been introduced and where it stands in the committee process on its way to the floor vote. If there’s action to take, you’ll see a Take Action button by your state. Click it. This will give you the opportunity to send a message to the most relevant legislators, urging them to support the legislation. They have to know you’re watching. That’s termlimits.com/takeaction. If your state has already passed the term limits convention resolution, or the bill’s not been introduced in your state, you can still help. Please consider making a contribution to US Term Limits. It’s our aim to hit the reset button on the US Congress, and you can help. Go to termlimits.com/donate. Termlimits.com/donate. Thanks. We’ll be back next week.
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